NGO and nonprofit hiring practices: staying compliant and furthering the cause

NGO and nonprofit hiring practices

Employment compliance is important for any hiring organization, but it’s especially urgent for nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations—not only do they rely on donor funding, but fairness is often at the heart of the mission.

Often, the biggest compliance challenge for NGOs and nonprofits that hire in multiple countries around the world is navigating complex and often unfamiliar labor laws, especially when they don’t have local HR resources or expertise.

Let’s explore what sets nonprofit hiring practices apart from those of their for-profit counterparts, as well as tips that can help your organization embody its mission as you hire internationally.

What sets nonprofit hiring practices apart?

In a legal sense, there isn’t a difference between NGO compliance and for-profit compliance—both organization types must abide by employment laws.

But when it comes to global hiring for NGOs, not only must you understand and abide by the employment laws of multiple countries, you have a unique need to maintain ethical operations—both in appearance and in practice because: 

  • A positive reputation helps attract and retain critical donor funds
  • Transparency contributes to an NGO’s progressive image
  • Ethical operations help attract and retain talented and passionate nonprofit employees

Unlike for-profit companies, nonprofits and NGOs aren’t chasing business growth, and people who work for them often aren’t just signing up for the money. Donors must have confidence that their money is supporting the NGO or nonprofit’s goals, and prospective (and current) employees often strive to be updated on the trends in nonprofit organizations and make positive change with the help of an equally passionate and ethically treated team.

Nonprofit hiring tips

So, how can your nonprofit accomplish the goals of ethical treatment, transparency and compliant hiring in an international hiring landscape?

1. Review your needs

Before you post a job ad, meet with your internal team to align on your organization’s needs. One crucial question to answer is, “How could an additional position help advance our mission?”

To help answer this question, conduct a review to:

  • Understand what talent already exists on the team
  • Verify that there’s a tangible need for a new role
  • Determine whether there’s anyone internal on the team who could be promoted

Understanding the existing team and the organization’s needs makes it easier to identify talent gaps and highlight skills a potential candidate must bring to the table.

2. Outline how the role helps further the mission

Once you’ve determined your NGO or nonprofit’s talent needs, brainstorm what their role would look like. Not only will this information help you post a detailed ad and attract qualified job candidates, but it will also help you hire someone intentionally, give other team members as much information as early as possible, and remain transparent with donors.

One helpful exercise is to ask what a typical day would look like for the new hire. Some examples include:

  • Liaising with and securing donor funds
  • Building a newsletter recipient list
  • Seeking petition or legislation signatories
  • Improving social media presence or engagement metrics
  • Organizing events and attending networking opportunities

3. Determine how hires should align with the NGO’s mission

Although it’s illegal in many countries to discriminate based on political or religious affiliation, you should consider how your team will respond if a new hire’s personal values don’t align with your organization’s mission.

This is an issue unique to NGOs and nonfits—in for-profit businesses, it makes less sense to discuss hot-button issues during an interview since they’re less likely to impact your day-to-day operations. But, if you hire a fundraiser, for example, who doesn’t agree with the messaging you use to recruit new donors, can you be confident that they’ll successfully convert tire-kickers into financial supporters?

In ideal circumstances, all employees will support your nonprofit’s values and goals. But, since you legally won’t be able to discriminate against employees who don’t, consider doing the following:

  • Publishing a guideline statement for value alignment that acknowledges your organization’s commitment to hiring without bias
  • Determining how potential employees with conflicting values can still be valuable teammates
  • Creating scripts or establishing press release SOPs for nonprofit employees to reference when speaking with donors, volunteers or the public

Related: 4 tips for NGOs and nonprofits hiring internationally

4. Consider employment laws

When hiring internationally, it’s important to make sure your interviewing and onboarding procedures align with the employment laws of their home country.

More specific considerations include:

  • Documentation. Determine how, when and to whom you must report information about the hiring process, your new employee’s wages or their employment status.
  • Contract requirements. What types of employment contracts are available to employees in your candidate’s home country? Make sure to understand the requirements so you can provide a compliant offer.
  • Benefits and leave. What mandatory benefits and leave regulations will you have to account for? Make sure that you’re prepared to offer all required benefits in a compliant manner.
  • Tax laws. What taxes will need to be withheld as part of payroll in the country where your potential employee lives? Will hiring a worker in a particular country make your organization liable for additional employer taxes?

Partnering with an employer of record provider can help you understand the employment regulations in countries where you don’t have HR expertise, and in countries where you don’t have a hiring entity, it can help you add the workers you need, quickly and compliantly.

Related: Global employment guide for NGOs

5. Assemble an attractive compensation and benefits package

Like for-profit businesses, NGOs and nonprofits must still contend with a competitive hiring pool where potential employees will shop around for the best compensation and benefits offers.

Pay and benefits that are competitive for the nonprofit sector standard are a must for organizations looking to hire top talent. Before advertising for a role, determine which benefits beyond what’s legally mandated that you plan to offer. Some examples include:

  • Remote working or hybrid options
  • Matching contributions to a retirement or investment account
  • Payment of healthcare premiums
  • Childcare assistance
  • Bonuses for exceptional performance
  • Paid educational or certification opportunities
  • Membership in local professional associations

A competitive wage and array of benefits can significantly influence the quality of candidates your hiring process attracts.

Related: International salary benchmarking: A how-to guide

6. Comply with independent contractor regulations

If you determine a role can be filled by an independent contractor rather than an employee, it’s critical to understand all related laws, tax implications and income reporting procedures to protect your organization from the risk of employee misclassification.

Noncompliance of the employment laws that define independent contractors and employees could result in legal action and/or financial penalties, so it’s vital that both your organization and the contractor are fully aware of the requirements.

Related: NGOs, nonprofits and independent contractors—how to protect your mission from the costly risk of noncompliance

7. Create a code of conduct

To ensure that all employees contribute positively to your organization's image, create a code of conduct for how employees should act when they’re:

  • On the clock (working remotely or in-person)
  • Attending events organized by your nonprofit (both internal and external)
  • At networking events
  • Online

The code of conduct should also stipulate how new employees will be trained, as well as what actions will be taken if an employee violates the code of conduct, such as reprimands, demotions or termination.

Ensuring compliant nonprofit hiring practices

Hiring the right people is essential for a nonprofit or NGO to advance your mission around the world. But even with careful planning and research, the complexity of international hiring is still risky, especially for organizations with limited HR resources.

A global employment solutions partner with in-country HR and payroll expertise can help NGOs and nonprofits navigate complex requirements, so you can focus on finding the right people—anywhere in the world—for furthering your cause.

Contact us today to speak with a global solutions advisor about your international hiring needs.

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